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Full text of "The rich Nechaco Valley and its possibilities; Fort Fraser"

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Extracts from 



/y/^ > CANADA." 

y—ilJS^ fl£- A - Talbot, Author. 

The extracts selected refer to in- 
cidents, localities, etc., in the Rich 
Nechaco Valley, of which Fort 
Fraser is the centre. 

Since the publication of 
this book the Station ques- 
tion has been settled, and 
Fort Fraser lots are now 
sold with a guarantee that 
the Railroad Station will be 
located where indicated on 
the original plans. 





After establishing shallow-draft boats 
on the Fraser between Soda Creek and 
Fort George, other voyages of discovery 
were undertaken up the various other rivers. 
The smallest and shallowest-draft vessel 
was employed for this exploration work, 
and it succeeded in making its way up the 
Fraser as far as Tete Jaune Cache, ascend- 
ed the Nechaco to Fort Fraser, a matter 
of 1 20 miles, and also the Stuart River 
to Fort St. James on Stuart Lake, 1 39 
miles. These investigations conclusively 
proved that there are about 1 000 miles 
of navigable waters available to shallow- 
draft steamers in the interior of British 
Columbia which can be exploited profitably. 

Is profitable. So far as the Nechaco Val- 
ley is concerned, I can emphatically say 
that it possesses great possibilities. Cher- 
ries and apples appear to do excellently, as 
do also gooseberries, currants and general 
ground fruits. 

This settler had taken over a quarter 
of a section — 160 acres. Yet from his 
own account he could not quarrel with his 


i 9. n ^55/ 

luck. The previous year he had raised 
two acres of potatoes, and the crop had 
netted him £200. This year he was 
reckoning on as large, if not a larger finan- 
cial return from the same source, since 
prices, due to greater demand, were higher. 
The astonishing point was that he had not 
tilled the soil. This was just a thick de- 
posit of decayed vegetable matter and al- 
luvium, for in the distant past his farm 
was at the bottom of a large lake, occu- 
pying the whole of the depression known 
as the Nechaco Valley. This light, nour- 
ishing topsoil was so soft that one could 
plunge one's arm up to the armpit without 
meeting the subsoil. All that was neces- 
sary was to make the drills, push the tubers 
in with the fingers, bank up, and then let 
them grow. 

A little farther on we came upon an- 
other settlement where about the same 
acreage was under cultivation. In this 
case the crops were of a more varied char- 
acter, coinciding very closely with an Eng- 
lish kitchen garden or mixed farm. There 
were patches of turnips, carrots, parsnips, 
lettuces, cabbages, etc. The white turnips 
had grown to an immense size, those we 
pulled up ranging up to 10 inches in cir- 
cumference, beautifully solid from rind to 
core, and as palatable as any English- 

grown root of this species. The carrots 
were long, measuring about 1 8 inches from 
crown to tip, well formed, free from wood- 
iness or fibre, sound, and of excellent color. 
The parsnips seemed to be equally good, 
though those were early days to judge this 
root; still, they measured about three inches 
across the crown. The beets also were 
doing well. The lettuces were large and 
succulent and though not possessing the 
crispness of the English variety, were yet 
of excellent flavor. The cabbages were 
large, the hearts well turned in, and of 
good shape. The new settler in these parts 
has certainly one advantage over his Brit- 
ish confrere. He is not pestered with 
worms, caterpillars, and other plagues which 
wreak such havoc in the field or garden, 
while the lightness and richness of the soil 
conduce to remarkable yield with a mini- 
mum of effort, after clearing is accom- 

Under normal conditions, this river, ow- 
ing to its crystal clearness, has a hue of 
deep prussian blue. 

If the luxuriance of the wild vegeta- 
tion offers any criterion, then farming in 
this territory presents incalculably attract- 

ive possibilities. The natural grasses grow 
to a tropical height and density. Sugar 
cane grass at seven feet high, red top at six 
feet, brome grass five and one-half feet, 
and timothy topping five feet, were quite 
common. The vetches also are prolific, be- 
ing found in such dense masses as greatly 
to impede rapid progress. The growth is 
strangely diversified. 


The Nechaco Valley proper is in reality 
an old lake bed. The soil is a thick de- 
posit of silt, in some places running to 40 
feet in depth, with a clayey subsoil. The 
silt is freely impregnated with thoroughly 
decomposed vegetable substance. The 
rainfall is just sufficient to stimulate growth 
to perfection, the temperature is equable, 
and the climate is about the same as that 
prevailing in Central Europe, which is only 
natural, seeing that the latitude is about the 
same as that of the south of England. 


There appears to be no need for the 
pioneer to have any anxiety as to food for 
his stock during winter in view of these 
bounteous wild supplies, effort being con- 
fined merely to the cutting and gathering 
of the succulent, tall, well-developed grasses. 


The Canadian says that where "four 
inches of grass will grow, wheat will grow, 
and where wheat can be raised any pro- 
duce will thrive." In face of this enunci- 
ation, the Nechaco Valley, with its wild 
hay topping five feet, should be a land 
of plenty. 


Another pioneer has seeded his holding 
to alfalfa. His industry was most hand- 
somely rewarded, for he had cropped four 
times in the year. This was a new de- 
velopment which testified in a striking man- 
ner to the amazing fertility of the soil and 
the congeniality of the climate, while it 
had sent the value of that pioneer's land 
to high-water mark, it being easily worth 
£20 or $100.00 an acre. 





While the pack-train was loading up for 

resumption of the journey early the next 

morning, we spied a dugout spinning over 

the lake towards us, and the agitation of 

the water showed that the oarsman was 

having some fine sport. When he pulled 


in he held up a prize and yelled: "Say, 
frien's, what d'yar think o' this? Bully, 
ain't it, eh?" displaying a fine, sleek, rain- 
bow-colored, glittering mass of scales. A 
silver salmon trout, he called it, and it was 
a beauty, turning the scales at three pounds. 
"I come out ev'ry mornin' before break- 
fast an' hook one o' these," he went on. 
"Why, that lake's full o' them. Say, 
come an' have a throw." Presently we 
saw a vicious tug and an instant later there 
was a bright flash in the air as the fish 
made a leap of about ten feet. The fight- 
ing and plunging went on for about ten 
minutes, then the dugout came in with a 
sharp shoot with another quivering speci- 
men lying in the bottom. When weighed 
it tipped the beam at three and a half 
pounds, and they were two as fine speci- 
mens of the trout family as one could de- 
sire to land. Our American visitor said 
they were "fair devils" when hooked, and 
would often jump clean over the canoe, 
while their rushes made the pike's move- 
ments a mere tortoise crawl in comparison. 
Lett confessed that his catch had given 
him a lively five minutes, accustomed though 
he was to all classes of fish found in Can- 
adian river waters. 

Our affable American informed us that 
he had taken over a section — a square mile 


— on the shore of this lake, and that his 
son had bought a like area of land just 
near us. "I came up hyar last year, and 
I war so impressed with th' country that 
I'm goin' to make it my home. I guess 
this is just about God's country, right 
enough! My wheat farms are down in 
Dakota, but I'll clear out down thar, be- 
cause I can't tear myself away from this 
spot. Is the land good? Well, I should 
smile! You would not catch me clearin' 
the forest if it warn't. How about winter? 
Well, last winter I worked about in my 
shirt sleeves. It is not near so cold as it 
is down Dakota way. We didn't have 
two feet of snow." 


It was about noon on Sunday when we 
came to a straight cut through the poplars, 
down which ran the telegraph wire to the 
river's banks. The descent was for more 
than a mile, and so easy as to be almost 
imperceptible. At the bottom of the dip 
the trail gave a short wind and we were 
on the river at the ferry, which we took 
across the Nechaco to Fort Fraser. 

The Nechaco at this point makes one of 
those sudden, big, sweeping bends, for 
which British Columbia rivers are famous, 

source of the waterway being on the slopes 
of the distant, rugged Cascades, fringing 
the Pacific Coast, and draining in all an 
immense tract of country, of which about 
640,000 acres are arable. 

Lake Stuart offers great attractions for 
agriculture. I met one or two pioneers 
who had been cruising through this ter- 
ritory and who had made Fort Fraser on 
their return journey south. Their reports 
were glowing, and they were emphatic in 
their opinion that it is impossible to exagger- 
ate the agrarian potentialities of the Lake 
Stuart country. 

This latter country, extending from Fort 
Fraser to the eastern side of Stuart Lake, 
is richly wooded, poplar (cottonwood) pre- 
dominating, but this growth is denser than 
that which prevails in the Nechaco Valley, 
the large, open flats of which are so at- 
tractive to the settler. Still, around Stuart 
Lake and Stuart River, to the confluence of 
the latter with the Upper Nechaco, there 
are nearly 350,000 acres of excellent farm- 
ing land, the possibilities of which, after 
clearing, are reflected by the varied and 
prime produce which the industrious factor 
of Fort St. James successfully raises year 
after year, comprising the usual range of 
vegetables and bush fruits. 

Linguistic Press o^g&b Vancouver, B. C.